Friday, January 11, 2008
Like Wine For Chocolate
With chocolate vendors gearing up and Valentine's Day soon upon us, no one can speak better on the subject of pairing wine with chocolate than my good friend and award-winning wine expert, Natalie MacLean, author of Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass.
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“Wine is liquid sensuality: Its heady bouquet stimulates the appetite and its velvet caress soothes that desire,” Natalie observes. “What other drink is described as both ‘voluptuous’ and ‘muscular’? And when you pair wine with the mouth-coating luxury of chocolate, the combination is impossible to resist.”
The creamy flavors of chocolate go best with sweet, full-bodied, high-alcohol wines, Natalie also notes. She suggests wines to compliment 50 chocolate dishes in her online matching tool at www.nataliemaclean.com/matcher. Just click on “desserts” to find pairings for chocolate mud pie to chocolate cheesecake.
Natalie’s top 10 wine and chocolate matches:
1. Dark Chocolate and Banyuls, France
2. Chocolate-Covered Biscotti and Recioto Della Valpolicella, Italy
3. Chocolate-Orange Cake and Liqueur Muscat, Australia
4. Chocolate with Nuts and Tawny Port, Portugal
5. Milk Chocolate and Tokaji, Hungary
6. Bittersweet Chocolate and Amarone, Italy
7. Chocolate-Dipped Fruit and Icewine, Canada
8. Chocolate Ganache Truffles and Sauternes, France
9. Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake and Framboise, California
10. Chocolate Hearts with Cream Filling and Cream Sherry, Spain
Natalie’s online food-and-wine matcher doesn’t just focus on chocolate. The interactive tool has thousands of wines to pair with any dish: meat, pasta, seafood, vegetarian fare, pizza, eggs, cheese and dessert. You simply choose the food or wine from a drop-down menu to get the pairing suggestions. There are also lots of recipes for those planning a romantic meal. The matcher is updated regularly with new dishes and wines from the 83,000-plus readers who subscribe to Natalie’s free e-newsletter, which offers tips on how to buy, cellar and serve wine.
In Red, White and Drunk All Over, Natalie discusses how to match food and wine in greater depth, including wines for a multi-course dinner. There’s also a chapter with advice on pairing wine with five challenging foods: chocolate, cheese, spicy dishes, vegetables and fast food. Got a dish or a wine to stump Natalie? Just e-mail her via her website Nat Decants and she’ll suggest a match for you.
Natalie MacLean has won four James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award. Rex Pickett, author of Sideways, says that Natalie “writes about wine with a sensuous obsession,” and is “laugh-out-loud funny.” Eric Asimov of the New York Times calls Natalie’s approach “a winning formula,” describing her as “the disarming Everywoman … she loves wine, loves drinking.” And the Financial Times of London observes: “Natalie MacLean is a new force in the wine writing world—a feisty North American answer to Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson.”
Thanks, and all best, Nat.